First Division side Sporting Fingal took another step closer to the Premier Division when they saw off a defiant Bray Wanderers in the first leg of the promotion/relegation play-off at Morton Stadium.
Second-half goals by captain Stephen Paisley and top scorer Conan Byrne at a rain-soaked Morton Stadium put Liam Buckley’s side in command ahead of Tuesday’s return leg.
Incessant rain and swirling wind dictated much of the opening proceedings as Bray put pressure on Darren Quigley’s goal.
The first chance of the game fell to Dane Massey who saw his header clear the Fingal crossbar on six minutes.
Fingal’s first attempt created came on 17 minutes after Robbie Doyle and Robert Bayly combined to release the raiding Conan Byrne down the right flank. He chose to shoot from distance and Chris O’Connor easily dealt with the strike.
Gareth Coughlan at the other end saw his effort slip through Quigley’s hands on 27 minutes only for the keeper to regain his composure and retrieve the ball just as it appeared destined to cross the line.
Coughlan came even closer to beating Quigley when he followed up Massey’s shot that was blocked by Paisley six minutes before the interval. His effort rebounded off the post into Quigley’s arms.
Conditions didn’t get any better after the turnaround but, crucially, Fingal did have the strong wind at their backs for the second 45 minutes.
They looked to take immediate advantage of the wind when first Robbie Doyle was nearly through only for Derek Foran to dispossess him ten yards from goal.
Fingal continued to pressurise the Bray goal with six straight
corners. And it was as a result of this that the deadlock was broken on 53 minutes.
Byrne whipped in the corner and the Bray defence’s attempted clearance rebounded off Stephen Paisley into trickled over the goal-line.
It was nearly 2-0 shortly after when Doyle found himself in space down the right hand side. His ball for Zayed was just a yard too far from the former Bray striker.
The Seagulls looked to respond immediately when a McCabe free kick from the edge of the box was saved well by Quigley three minutes after going behind.
Colm James came agonisingly close to adding to Fingal’s lead when his twenty-five yard effort grazed the cross bar just past the hour mark.
Fingal did double their lead when Byrne latched onto a superb cross-field ball from Lorcan Fitzgerald and smashed his shot past O’Connor with 23 minutes remaining.
McCabe was again thwarted by the framework on 70 minutes when his effort came back off the crossbar and fell to the feet of Derek Foran whose shot was saved superbly by Quigley.
Bray continued to press and Paul Byrne had a good chance at the edge of the six-yard box but yet again Quigley got down well to save.
Despite the Bray onslaught, Fingal managed see the tie out, and now move onto the second leg of the tie with a two-goal advantage and their sights set firmly on the Premier Division.
Sporting Fingal: Quigley; James, Maher, Paisley, Fitzgerald; Bayly, Williams, McFaul; C Byrne, Doyle (Foley 79), Zayed.
Bray Wanderers: O’Connor; Pender, Foran, Deans, Cronin; Massey, Coughlan, Doyle, McCabe (Kelly 73); P Byrne, Flood (Tresson 79).
Referee: D Tomney.